Glucomannan for Weight loss
There are many different appetite suppressants available on the diet pill market, which generally fall into two types, chemical and natural. Chemical appetite suppressants stimulate or suppress various hormones in the body to create the illusion of physical fullness and to therefore delay or prevent hunger. Chemical appetite suppressants are generally intended for short-term use, as the body quickly gets used to the drug, causing weight loss to trail off after around 4 to 6 weeks. A better alternative is any appetite suppressant that relies in adding bulk in the stomach to create a sensation of fullness, reducing appetite. Glucomannan is one ingredient that has been proven to reduce hunger in users, which leads to significant weight loss over time.
In this article, we will be looking into the weight loss benefits associated with Glucomannan, and see whether the diet pill manufacturers have valid reasons to add this ingredient to their products.
What is Glucomannan?
Glucomannan is an ingredient that is derived from the root of the plant Konjac (Amorphophallus konjac), which has been grown in Asia for centuries for use as a foodstuff and medicine. Glucomannan is a soluble fibre, which has the capacity to absorb as much as 17 times its own weight in water. This means that upon entry to the stomach, it swells as it absorbs water, creating bulk. It is this effect that causes a suppression of appetite. As it is considered a dietary fibre, Glucomannan is often used to treat constipation or to improve bowel movements. Another bonus of Konjac, and therefore also Glucomannan, is that it has very few calories, and so its use as a low calorie diet food is another way in which it may be beneficial for weight loss. Glucomannan is available as a powder, in capsule form, or as a part of several diet foods, as described below.
Glucomannan in food
Glucomannan is used in some foods as a thickener, but the main point of interest for us is that Glucomannan can be used to make a type of Japanese noodle called shirataki noodles. These have a high level of fibre, almost no calories, and are known for absorbing the flavours of the sauces and seasonings that they are paired with.
Several different companies have developed ranges of diet noodles, pasta and rice based upon the ingredient Glucomannan, mixed with a large amount of water. These include brands such as Zero Noodles and Skinny Noodles. Skinny noodles come in ‘magic rice’, fettuccini, spaghetti and angel hair noodles, allowing the dieter to produce low calorie replicas of their favourite dishes. As they are low carb products, they are often marketed as being suitable for the Dukan diet, the Atkins diet and the South Beach diet, which all restrict carbohydrate intake. These noodles are invariably expensive compared to the carb-heavy foods that they replicate, but reviews of the products are generally very positive, provided that cooking instructions are followed properly. Some people do not find the texture of these products appetising, and so people trying the product for the first time should probably only purchase one portion initially, to avoid wasting their money should they not like the product. They are available in many health shops, such as Holland and Barrett, as well as from many online retailers. Bulk purchases can also be made, especially from sellers on EBay. Incorporated into a calorie-controlled diet, these foods can allow dieters to make the most of their daily calorific allowance, without feeling constantly hungry.
Glucomannan in diet pills
Glucomannan is a key ingredient in many different diet pills and weight loss aids. These include Slimsticks powder sachets, which have received a positive review here at DPR. Slimsticks powder sachets are added to a small amount of water to make a thick liquid, which should be drunk immediately, followed by several glasses of water. Slimsticks also includes the ingredients Palm and Oat Oils, which are thought to trick your brain into thinking that there is undigested fat present in the digestive system, which tells you that you’re still full and therefore not hungry.
Slimlite Skinni Chews are another product that contains Glucomannan. These are marketed as a ‘guilt free snack’ that has a low number of calories as well as appetite suppressing qualities. However, this product is very expensive, retailing at around £32.44 for 60 on the official website, as a special price reduced from £60.47. The company who manufactures these makes no claims about weight loss that can be expected from use of the chews, but does state that the chocolate bites cause the user to feel full for 2-4 hours, when eaten with a glass of water.
Glucomannan is also available in capsule form, with no other ingredients added. Whilst other ingredients may increase the potential weight loss from use of the products, by encouraging the body to burn calories through boosting the metabolism or creating a thermogenic effect on the body, the studies detailed below show that Glucomannan is an effective weight management product on its own. Buying Glucomannan capsules on their own rather than a diet pill containing Glucomannan may also work out much cheaper in the long run, as supplements are often cheaper than diet pills which have large price mark-ups to match the weight loss claims that they make.
Studies and weight loss
There have been a number of studies conducted that study the relationship between Glucomannan consumption and weight loss. These have invariably found that users experience significantly more weight loss when consuming Glucomannan compared to a placebo product. The majority of these studies encouraged users to not change their usual eating or exercise habits during the clinical trials, to rule out weight loss due to other factors.
One paper, entitled Glucomannan and Obesity: A Critical Review, concluded that Glucomannan ‘exerts its beneficial effects by promoting satiety and faecal energy loss’ and that in doses of ‘2-4 g per day, Glucomannan was well-tolerated and resulted in significant weight loss in overweight and obese individuals’. The study suggested that Glucomannan increases satiety over the course of the day by slowing down the emptying of the stomach, because of the thick nature of the product once it has become fully saturated with water. It also slows down the absorption of food in the small intestine, which leads to blood sugar levels and insulin production becoming regulated. This means that, as there are fewer peaks and crashes in blood sugar levels, users of the supplement feel fewer cravings for food to compensate for low blood sugar levels. This should in theory lead to less snacking between meals, which can typically be a source of a large number of calories throughout the day. This study also recommends that Glucomannan is consumed an hour before meals for greatest effect.
Walsh et al. found in a double blind trial entitled Effect of glucomannan on obese patients: a clinical study that participants experienced a significant mean weight loss of 5.5 lbs using glucomannan over an eight-week period. This was significantly more than the control group who consumed a placebo. Both groups were encouraged to follow their normal dietary and exercise habits. In this study, one gram of Glucomannan was consumed an hour before each meal, 3 times a day.
Another study, Effect of two doses of a mixture of soluble fibres on body weight and metabolic variables in overweight or obese patients: a randomised trial focused upon the combination of 3 g Plantago ovata husk and 1 g Glucomannan, which was administered either two or three times per day. This study was much larger than the one conducted by Walsh et al. and studied 200 obese and overweight participants. They consumed the two studied ingredients over a course of 16 weeks whilst on calorie-controlled diets. Results showed that both fibre consuming groups lost significantly more weight than the group who received a placebo, but that the differences in changes between the two fibre consuming groups were not statistically significant. The two control groups lost an average of -4.52kg and -4.60kg, compared to the placebo group who only lost an average of -0.79 kg. This is clearly a dramatic difference in the amount of weight lost. LDL-cholesterol levels were also found to be significantly reduced in the two groups who consumed Glucomannan, which is beneficial for cardiac health.
Due to the large number of positive studies that have been conducted on Glucomannan, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) produced a report on the ingredient and its effects upon the body. This report concluded that in the context of weight loss “the Panel concludes that a cause and effect relationship has been established between the consumption of Glucomannan and the reduction of body weight in the context of an energy-restricted diet.” They also stated that “most of the intervention studies, which were of adequate sample size and duration, found a statistically significant effect of Glucomannan on body weight loss in the context of a hypocaloric diet when administered as a pre-load before meals, and that the mechanism by which Glucomannan could exert the claimed effect is established.”
Potential Side effects
As with all supplements, it is likely that a small percentage of users will experience some side effects when using Glucomannan based products. Every product that contains Glucomannan encourages the user to consume lots of water alongside the product. This advice is given for good reason, as the product absorbs a large amount of water to expand and cause appetite suppression. Without enough water to absorb, side effects can include intestinal blockages, constipation, stomachaches, and general discomfort. These are all easily avoided by following instructions properly.
Side effects can also be caused by taking Glucomannan too close to a meal. Advice generally states that the supplement should be taken at least 15 to 30 minutes before a meal. If this advice is not followed, it is possible that the dieter will eat a large meal before the Glucomannan has fully expanded, allowing them to easily overeat. By the time both the meal has been consumed, and the Glucomannan has expanded, the user could feel too full, which causes general discomfort and stomach aches, as well as indigestion throughout the day. Doing this would also override the main intention of consuming Glucomannan, which is to suppress the appetite so that the user eats less through the day. If this is regularly happening, it is advised that the time between the supplement being consumed and a meal being eaten be increased. Bloating and flatulence are sometimes reported as side effects, although these seem to be in the minority, and may be impacted by the user’s diet as well.
Overall, Glucomannan is considered fairly safe for use. Tests on rats have revealed that there is no toxicity connected with consuming Glucomannan, even over a prolonged period of time. The same tests suggest that people should try to avoid consuming more than 5 grams of Glucomannan per day, unless advised to by a doctor. This is because the chances of experiencing diarrhoea and other gastrointestinal problems increases as the amount of Glucomannan consumed increases. Higher doses, up to 13 grams per day, can be recommended for those who are managing “diabetes, insulin resistance syndrome, and dyslipidemia”, although this should be done under the supervision of a doctor.
Pure tablets of Glucomannan should be avoided, as these provide the highest chances of choking and other problems swallowing the tablets. Capsules and powder forms of Glucomannan are safe to consume, provided the instructions are followed accurately.
Who is Glucomannan recommended for?
People who have struggled with calorie-restricted diets in the past would be most likely to benefit from the use of Glucomannan, as the lack of satiety and persistent hunger is a large factor in failed diets. People who suffer from diabetes or who have insulin resistance could benefit from the use of Glucomannan, due to its impact upon blood sugar levels and insulin levels. However, they should seek advice from a doctor, as Glucomannan has a similar effect upon the body that medication prescribed for diabetics has. Without considering this, it is possible that the consumption of both medication and Glucomannan could decrease the levels of blood sugar in diabetics to a dangerously low figure.
The best results in studies have been found in people who are overweight or obese, but studies do show that Glucomannan can have a beneficial effect upon weight loss for all who are seeking to lose weight.
At present, it is recommended that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not consume Glucomannan, due to a lack of research on the effects on women in these categories.
Children who are obese may also benefit from supplementation from Glucomannan, although they should consume smaller doses than adults should, and use of the product should be monitored by a doctor. There is support from clinical studies that obese children do lose weight whilst consuming the product, with no apparent negative effects.
Overall, it is clear that Glucomannan does have the potential to be a very effective appetite suppressant, and that its use can lead to significant weight loss should calorific intake be monitored. The best results will obviously be obtained in combination with a calorie controlled diet and the implementation of an exercise program or increased activity levels. It can help people who struggle with hunger during dieting, increasing the success of diets for these people. Whilst it does potentially cause some side effects if not used correctly, these appear to be generally avoidable or insignificant, as well as not impacting upon long-term health. It is also a relatively cheap supplement if bought in capsule form, especially compared to other appetite suppressants that are available.
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